Knocking down clay birds at Bluefield Shooting Club
Steeped in history, Colleton County’s Bluefield Farm has been in the Tuten family for more than 100 years, ever since Will Tuten’s great-grandfather Henry bought the place in 1917. In 1942, Henry’s son Parker Sr. returned home to farm full-time until his death. The farm grew and prospered, expanding to 250 head of hogs, hay, corn, soybeans and 250 head of cattle.
Parker, Will’s father, relays his own father’s attachment to this place: “My daddy used to like to say, ‘If I never have to get more than a mile from right here, I’ll be a happy man.’ I have always agreed with him,” Parker continues, “and now, Will and his son Parker feel the exact same way about this land.” The Tutens still have cattle and cut hay and timber on the farm and “this sporting clays business is a way we could put something on the land that would generate income and allow us to keep this farm in the family forever.”
“We thought a long time about setting up a sporting clays course,” Will explains. “And there is a need for it. There wasn’t anywhere around here for people to shoot that was open to the public.”
“This is a great location for something like this,” Parker adds. “Several hundred thousand people live less than an hour’s drive from here. We’re 30 minutes to Charleston and 30 minutes to Beaufort.”
Bluefield Shooting Club recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, a successful year, which Will attributes to a lot of hard work, dedication and “meeting with the right people during the planning stages. I talked to Rick Hemingway of Back Woods Quail Club” in the Rhems community near Georgetown, “and he helped me design the course. He laid out the course and he comes back down every month for a target change. I had built this road 20 years ago and I came in with equipment and cleared the course.”
“Rick Hemingway is the kingpin of sporting clays in the Southeast,” declares Justin Acree, a AA-Class sporting clays shooter who frequents Bluefield twice a week. Acree has travelled all over the South shooting competition sporting clays. “Bluefield … is a beautiful piece of property. It’s just an enjoyable experience to go spend time on a place like that. I really like the topography of that place. So many other places anymore are just planted pines, but Bluefield is special to outdoorsmen who have a natural appreciation of the land,” Acree points out.
Will is a lifelong sportsman who has worked with agricultural and construction equipment his entire life, so his personal efforts in the development of the course and a pride in his property are evident. He converted a stable he built years ago for his horses into an equipment shed and constructed a pro shop that serves as an office and gathering place. Ceiling fans cool an expansive porch and shooters may relax on antique church pews or come inside and seek additional comfort on plush leather sofas and chairs that face a big-screen television. The pro shop has hosted wedding rehearsals and corporate events and is a great rural venue for all sorts of social activities.
Willet, a beautiful and well-fed yellow English Labrador retriever may or may not lift her head to greet you when you arrive. “I bet you didn’t think she could do that!” Will laughs after Willet jumps into the bed of his Polaris ATV. “I pull the Polaris up on the rocks and leave the back end in the dirt so she can jump in and have soft dirt to jump out on,” Will says, unconsciously indicating both his attention to detail and affinity for animals.
Unlike bird hunting, Justin Acree points out, you don’t have to worry about slow days when your quarry is sporting clays. “The cool thing about sporting clays is you can shoot them until your little heart is content. You can keep shooting until you run out of shells or money; there’s no limit.”
When you check in at the pro shop and sign a waiver, you can buy shotgun shells or bring your own. Don’t forget to purchase a monogrammed hat and shirt, too. You can drive your own golf cart or rent one from Will. Or you can choose to walk the course. “I do have five or six people who like to come and walk,” says Will.
Sean Davis of James Island prefers to travel Bluefield by foot. “This is a beautiful course run by very good people. It really is a competitive course. It’s well-designed and throws competitive targets. It’s accessible and easy to navigate. I have shot a few premium target ranges in South Carolina and this place is definitely on par with them. And, it’s just cool to end up shooting next to cows!” Davis says.
Bluefield Shooting Club offers a 14-station course and a five-stand. ”We give you a Promatic target card and score sheets — if you want them,” Will continues. Each station includes a four-by-four platform, which Will built. Solar panels with batteries power the Promatic throwers. In addition, sportsmen may make prior arrangements for trappers to guide them on their experience.
“This is definitely the toughest course I have shot!” Declares Travis Bee. “When those brush bunnies come straight out at you — low and fast — they will throw you, for sure. It’s a very beautiful course on a beautiful piece of property — and very well-put-together. I really like the challenge and it was definitely worth it. We’ll be back next weekend; I guarantee it!”
And even the most expert marksmen will never become bored at Bluefield. “Every three or four weeks, we get a complete course change. The sky is the limit with what we can do. For instance, you can change the pitch of the machine to show a lot of dome or belly of the targets. We have all sorts of different presentations of targets,” Will explains.
The clientele here is as diverse as the flora and fauna of this Lowcountry landscape. “Most of our competitive shooters don’t keep score or follow the menu,” Will says. “They might even shoot 100 targets at one station, just to learn it. Then, you have guys who just might want to come out here to have fun and break a few targets. Some people are beginners who have never shot sporting clays. And we get a lot of children,” Will tells us.
“Will is the magnet! He is the glue” that holds the place together,” declares a Bluefield regular. The facility, grounds and stands are meticulously maintained. Secrets to Will’s success include both his passion for the outdoors and a commitment to ensuring a fun time for his guests.
“A group of four can usually shoot this course in about two hours. But I have groups of fifteen or twenty and they want to stay together and socialize, so it might take them five or six hours,” Will says.
“That’s the objective of the lounge,” he goes on. “If you’re going to drive out here, don’t just come out to shoot 100 targets and go home. Come shoot, relax, cool off, make some friends and have a good time. We are all about providing the total experience. I like to work the weekends because I really enjoy meeting people; it’s a thrill to be around them.”
Besides the magnificent setting, the people make Bluefield and you are sure to meet some characters when you come down to Jacksonboro. Scott Hammond and Cody Davis help Will with the day-to-day operations and regulars who stop in at the pro shop to shoot the breeze don’t seem in any big hurry to get in the field.
“When you walk in the front door, it’s just like Cheers; everybody knows your name,” Justin Acree says. “You feel welcome and appreciated for your business. You aren’t going to find a better bunch of people. I didn’t know Will until he opened the club and now, we are good friends. They are just good people!”
For those who frequent the farm, an annual membership soon pays for itself through the many discounts offered. Bluefield Shooting Club is located at 518 Tuten Road in Round O. For more information, call Bluefield Shooting Club at (843) 893-2500 and visit their Facebook page.
Get down there and sling some lead where the sky is full of clay birds all year round.
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.